There are a number of ways to cut calories and drop pounds fast, but not all methods for quick weight loss are safe, sustainable, or even painless. A lot of “crash diets” come with side effects including ravenous hunger and short-lived results. But don’t lose hope just yet. It is possible to speed up your fat loss efforts without having to sacrifice your wellbeing in the process. Here are ten ways to help you cut calories and achieve better, and longer-lasting results.
How Fast Can You Lose Weight?
Weight management boils down to calorie control, and the lower you cut your calories, the more pounds you can lose quickly. So understanding how many calories you need to eat a day to lose weight is the first step. In fact, without a calorie deficit, you won’t get very far since it is the only known, proven method for fat loss. No matter what the latest fad diet is claiming!
There is also a difference between weight loss and fat loss, especially when you are looking at a short window of time. Weight loss includes anything that causes the number on the scale to go down and can include muscle loss and more commonly, water loss. Fat loss, on the other hand, takes a little bit more time and consistency.
How fast fat loss occurs can vary from one person to the next, depending on your individual metabolism, muscle mass, fitness level, starting weight, and genetics.
Calories Needed to Lose Weight Quickly
Start by figuring out how many calories you burn a day. This is you daily needs to maintain your current weight. You can find this using a nutrition app or online calculator.
You can then calculate your weight loss calorie needs using a percentage cut – aiming to eat 20 to 30% less calories than you need to maintain.
For example, if you need to eat 2,000 calories a day to maintain your weight, a 20% cut would put you at 1600 calories a day (2,000 x 80%) and a 30% cut would have you around 1,400 daily calories (2,000 x 70%).
A 20% cut would promote quick weight loss, and a 30% cut represents a more aggressive approach. It isn’t really recommended to go below a 30% cut.
How Long Does it Take to Lose 20 Pounds?
Once you have an idea of how many calories you need to eat to lose weight, you can figure out how much weight you should be losing each week. In order to lose one pound of fat you need to cut about 3,500 calories from your diet.
Since cutting 3,500 calories in a day or two is not realistic or even possible for most people, it is best to spread out your calorie deficit throughout the week. You can cut 3,500 calories by decreasing your calorie intake each day or increasing the number of calories you burn through physical activity.
In other words, in order to lose one pound per week, you will need to cut 500 calories per day from either food, exercise or both combined. And for two pounds lost per week, you would need to cut 1,000 calories a day.
Depending on your current weight and calorie needs, a loss of 0.5 to 2 pounds per week represents a healthy rate of reduction in weight for most people. But some people can lose weight faster.
If you lose 2-pounds a week, this means you can aim to lose 20 pounds in 10 weeks or in two and a half months.
What Happens When You Crash Diet?
Often times, quick weight loss goes hand in hand with crash dieting, but this isn’t always the best solution. “Crash diets” are typically extremely low-calorie diets that require drastic measures – like eliminating multiple food groups, drinking only juice or soup for weeks, or fasting for multiple days to cut out as many calories as possible.
Very low calorie diets (VLCDs) are also used as treatment against obesity in some medical centers, but these programs are supervised by trained physicians, and not necessarily the right approach for everyone (48).
But starving yourself only works for a little while. And even if you are successful in sticking to an extreme diet, you may end up gaining it all back once you go off it. This is mainly because short-term diets can promote a lot of water loss (not just fat loss). In addition, depending on how long these diets persist, they can do a number on your hunger-regulating hormones, mental state, and potentially your metabolism. Crash diets can also be dangerous for certain individuals.
Some of the main issues associated with eating too few calories include:
You Get Really Hangry
Losing weight, in general, can affect your hunger, fullness hormones causing you to feel more hungry, even after you’ve stopped dieting. While going a little hungry can be helpful for weight reduction, being extremely hungry can be downright painful. If you can get past the constant hunger pains, you may also find that crash dieting is making you obsessed with food. Your body is so hungry that food becomes all you think about (1).
Being hungry all the time is bad enough, but very-low-calorie diets can cause you to be in a terrible mood as well. Calories, especially carbs, play a major role in regulating your emotions, and being so hungry that you are angry is a real thing. Carbohydrates are linked to your self-control – which is why we cannot control our temper when we have low blood sugar, and we get hangry.
You Get Skinny Fat
If you aren’t getting enough protein, and not strength training regularly, extremely restrictive diets may cause you to start burning more lean muscle for energy instead of fat (2). Why does this matter? You are losing precious muscle mass – which is key for keeping your metabolism intact and improves your overall quality of life. In addition, reduced lean muscle mass increases your overall body fat percentage, even though the number on the scale is decreasing.
Muscle is denser than fat, which can make you look leaner overall. Once you reach your desired weight, you may not feel as fit and toned as you would if you lost more fat and maintained your lean mass throughout the process. In order to decrease your body fat and get toned, you would have to gain muscle mass, essentially gain the weight back, and try to lean out by burning fat. It is pretty counter-intuitive to drop pounds from losing muscle weight just to try and gain back more muscle weight in the end.